We have just wrapped up the second day of the 2nd Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape Congress, a gathering of around 150 stakeholders from CI’s marine biodiversity conservation corridors in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape, a 100 million-hectare (almost 250 million-acre) area in the waters shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Located at the heart of Coral Triangle, the Seascape is home to some of the world’s richest marine biodiversity. CI has been working in the Seascape since 2005; this gathering allows the participants to look back on the progress made in the last five years and to hammer out plans and priorities for future work. For participants coming from the same corridor, it’s a reunion of sorts, but the meeting is also an opportunity for the teams to meet their counterparts in the other corridors and learn from each other’s experiences.
This afternoon’s workshop group discussions have showed that great progress has been made in the past years, especially in terms of establishing marine protected areas (MPAs) and building up the local leaders’ capacities to manage these MPAs and enforce laws effectively. It was also heartening to know that as awareness of marine biodiversity has increased, the local leaders now have a greater appreciation of the need to invest in conservation work.
During the opening session, Governor Vilma Santos-Recto of Batangas province, a popular movie star now turned local executive, committed to dedicate more resources to sustain the progress made partly through the partnership with CI’s Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape project. While the participants were starstruck by the appearance of one of the country’s best actresses in their midst, we were even more impressed by the local leadership’s commitment to conserving some of the world’s richest marine environments.
Corina Bernabe is the communications coordinator for CI-Philippines.